Whatever I said yesterday—about how I finally understand that I cannot impose my traditions on David, about how I now know that I have to let go of some things without remorse—well, to put it bluntly, I lied. Apparently, those feelings are closer to the surface that I would like to admit.
Halloween is not David’s favorite holiday. Frankly, David does not really have a favorite holiday. Last Halloween, I chronicled how he wore his costume for approximately seven seconds, ripping it off in the middle of the school parade. He sent his regrets for the school party, preferring to accompany his parents home. He did go trick or treating—to one neighbor’s house and even that was a struggle.
Well, this year was a slightly different story. David wore the same SpongeBob Squarepants costume and kept it on for the duration of the parade. He even stayed for the class party--not that he had a choice. I snuck into his classroom before the older kids were finished parading, said hello so that he would know I had been there and then broke the news that he needed to stay for the party and ride the bus home.
I know that David handled the party better without me there, or at least without the temptation of a quick exit, but to see the expression on his face almost broke my heart. He has a face that he makes when he is upset where he is trying to blink back the tears, but still put on a brave face. It gets me every single time.
I felt better when I got home—that is until David stepped off the bus. His backpack was appropriately heavy, but as the bus pulled away I realized that there was no SpongeBob costume folded inside, no treats, no crafts or prizes from the party games. No frosted cupcake that David surely refused to eat and was saved in a Ziploc for later. There must be a whole sack missing, I thought to myself. After a quick trip back to school, I realized that David had left his sack, costume included, on the bus.
Now, David does not like trick or treating. David does not like costumes. David is a smart boy and I sometimes wonder what he is thinking. Quite clever how you ditched me at the school party, Mother. I’ll show you by leaving my costume on the bus. So much for trick or treating. HAHAHAHAHA.
But now it was my turn to blink back tears. Why did I care? I had taken my pictures of David in his costume. I knew that he did not want to trick or treat, but I was going to make him do it anyway—to visit at least visit one neighbor’s house.
Once I saw David’s reaction to Andrew’s werewolf costume, however, I was glad that trick or treating was out of the question. In fact, when David saw the masks on the very first group of kids who rang our doorbell, he unplugged his iPad, on which he had been watching his favorite elevator videos, and loudly announced for all to hear, “I going upstairs.” He proceeded to lock himself in my bedroom, calling down once for goldfish and a glass of milk.
After about an hour, he came back downstairs. He expressed an interest in some of the costumes. He started waving to the kids. “Thanks for coming and have a nice night,” he would call after them as they walked back down the driveway. Eventually, he even corrected his valediction to a more appropriate “Happy Halloween…and have a nice night.”
Once he spontaneously sang out, “trick or treat,” for which he was rewarded with a red Tootsie Pop. He even ate the whole thing. I was just thinking that he was beginning to get the hang of Halloween, when he ran to the front hall closet, grabbed the American flag and insisted on hanging it in the flagpole of the front porch rail—in the dark. I could not convince him that the flag was not really part of Halloween, so I muttered quick apologies under my breath to Francis Scott Key, all veterans of any war and to the flag police. Oh, and also to my older son, Andrew, a former boy scout who takes his flag etiquette very seriously and complains every time David lets the flag brush the ground.
It is not unusual for kids with autism to have pronoun confusion—to say, “You want milk” when they really mean “I want milk.” As David’s language has developed, fortunately he has never had that issue. But the American flag on Halloween? Has anyone ever heard of holiday confusion?